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Gutenberg Help: What You Need to Know Updated: 2021

Embracing changes in WordPress

WordPress 5.0 with Gutenberg

With WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg, the new block editor, is now introduced into the WordPress core.  As with any major release, expect updates (5.01, 5.1, 5.1.1, 5.2, etc.) will roll out as bugs are identified and corrections are made.

WordPress's Gutenberg is named after John Gutenberg, who in 1438 began experimenting with printing which led to the development of movable type (printing press) in 1450.

Gutenberg: The Block Editor Experience

WordPress Gutenberg Plugin Callout

On November 29th, Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress, posted WordPress 5.0: A Gutenberg FAQ (interesting to read the comments too).

My POV

WordPress Gutenberg Editor

Now that Gutenberg has been released in the wild for some time, I am often asked what I think. First, I think it's wise to embrace change.  

As of now, all my sites are using Gutenberg. In particular, this site is using a theme, Authority Pro, that is updated for Gutenberg and has a homepage that is created entirely with blocks.

So what is Gutenberg, really?

Think blocks like in building blocks. Each part of your post — a paragraph, a headline, a bulleted list, an image — is an individual stand-alone block. Each will have its own options sidebar to tweak to your liking.

There is a learning curve to get used to what is where. First, you have to get into the “block” mentality. Each part of your post is a block.

A note about the Classic Editor plugin: while that was great for those who didn't want to jump on the Gutenberg bandwagon, that was a band-aid that now is best to rip off. Embrace Gutenberg — the future is now.

Better or just different?

Better over the long haul. Gutenberg already has me thinking about creating custom blocks. Based on how I do things now, Gutenberg is a natural way to make my sites and add content. Like anything new, you get into a new rhythm.

As you are writing, you hit enter with Gutenberg — and an automatic new block is created. You'll then see “Start writing or type /to choose a block.”

Plugins and Meta Boxes

Gutenberg user interface.
Gutenberg nav includes blocks, post options, plugin, and theme interfaces

Yoast SEO, as well as many other plugins, now include integration of their plugin into Gutenberg. Various Yoast-related blocks to choose from. The choice depends on if you are on the free or Pro version, of course.

Yoast used to be located in meta boxes below the content editor. Now it has an area in the right sidebar in the editor.

As more plugins integrate with Gutenberg, you'll see plugins either adding icons in that top bar or a section in the right sidebar. For example, Ninja Forms is now in the right sidebar — that used to be above the editor. The sidebar tabs work like widgets do now; you click on them, and they open, displaying the options available to you.

Think Blocks

With Gutenberg, instead of just writing, you'll now have the ability to think about structure, not just the words you are typing. You can further configure each block (paragraph, image, headline, quote, etc.) based on available options.

There is also the option to choose from a bunch of built-in blocks. You can also create your own blocks and save them as a “reusable block” added to your choices. I love the reusable block feature!

Will My Site Break with Gutenberg?

Probably not if you are on a Premium Theme. You want to make sure your theme is Gutenberg and block compatible. Anyone theme creator worth their salt has been on this path and updated any themes that exhibited issues.

Gutenberg is about editing and creating content, not how WordPress outputs content. Your theme will still handle that. Theme developers and plugin creators have been integrating Gutenberg into their themes and plugins for some time now.

If you are not sure about your theme, check now to be sure. If you do not get a straight answer, time to move to a premium theme that keeps up with technology, And in 2021 that also means Full Site Editing (FSE) compatibility is coming in July.

Once you have 5.0.X, you can then open any page or post to edit and become familiar with how Gutenberg works. (If you are not on WordPress 5.0.X, stop reading this article and take care of that first as none of this matters to you until you do.).

My Takeaways:

How it started; how it's going.

  • My dashboard is now noticeably slower and I have keyboard lag — very annoying. This has been addressed in subsequent Gutenberg releases.
  • Gutenberg is intuitive in some ways and not in others and can be frustrating at times.  It is a new way of creating content for those who do not rely on block editors.
  • For me, Gutenberg adds extra steps and complicates things unnecessarily.  I'm still getting used to it. I'm used to it.
  • I do not think it is as user-friendly for WordPress newbies as some claim. I was wrong — newbies tell me they love it.
  • Most of the blocks make sense, others seem clunky.
  • I do not have the ability to do all the things I used to in the new “code editor” that I used to do in the TEXT tab. I do now.
  • I'll have to get used to doing things differently. I have!

There were pros and cons to Gutenberg and how it was introduced and implemented. I've been following the process for some time, including the disagreements and controversy. But those days are behind us.

In most cases, I understand both sides. But that was then, and this is now. Over time, I do not doubt that with community involvement and tweaks, Gutenberg — and FSE — is the future of WordPress.

Gutenberg Resources

Here are just a few so you can get informed and prepared:

Maybe because I've been at this for so long, I'm used to the fact that technology doesn't sit still. Change is inevitable, like it or not.

At your service,

Judith: WordPress Consultant and Business Coach